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posted by Fnord666 on Tuesday September 04 2018, @01:04PM   Printer-friendly
from the going-up! dept.

Japan is taking us one step closer to a space elevator.

Elon Musk may not believe in space elevators yet, but Japan is taking a step forward to realise the dream of travelling to space by elevators instead of the traditional rocket.

A team of researchers from Japan's Shizuoka University and other institutions will conduct the first test in space this month as part of a project to build a space elevator, Japan's The Mainichi reported last week. The space elevator essentially ferries people and cargo shipments in an elevator car travelling on a cable connecting Earth to a space station.

This test is the first exploring the movement of a container on a cable in space. Two ultra-small cubic satellites measuring 10 centimeters on each side connected by a steel cable about 10 metres long will be carried from Kagoshima's Tanegashima Space Center to the International Space Station on Sept. 11.

From there, the connected satellites will be launched and a motorised container acting as an elevator car will travel along the cable and have its journey recorded via a camera attached to the satellites.

The project's technical advisor, Japan's construction giant Obayashi Corporation, is also working on a similar project, though it previously said it expects to deliver a space elevator by 2050.

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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Immerman on Tuesday September 04 2018, @05:25PM

    by Immerman (3985) on Tuesday September 04 2018, @05:25PM (#730351)

    That's the elevation of geostationary orbit - the only distance at which objects can orbit above a fixed point on the Earth's surface (necessary for a surface-to-orbit elevator). And all beanstalks have to connect to a counterweight beyond that point in order to hold them up (by necessity they're lowered from orbit, not supported from below). It's also the "balance point" height at which maximum beanstalk tension is reached.

    Anything orbiting closer is moving faster than the Earth's surface, and thus can't be connected to the surface. Much faster by the time you get as close as the ISS, whose ground speed is over 27,000 km/hour.

    There have been some experiments using tethers to lower things into the atmosphere from orbit, but as you can imagine dragging a cable through the atmosphere at Mach 22 introduces some serious drag and turbulence issues - assuming you can avoid having the tether disintegrate from re-entry-style heating.

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